Cambodia is renowned for their large amount of public holidays. They celebrate 20 holidays each year, which can total up to 35 days off, depending on how many extra days their employers give them. Whether you are visiting Cambodia on holiday, are moving there, or just want to be green with envy, our guide to some of the most popular public holidays in Cambodia has you sorted!
International New Year’s Day – Despite having their own three-day new year in April, Cambodians celebrate international new year’s as well! If you are in Siem Reap you will see Cambodians and foreigners party until all hours of the morning on the infamous Pub Street.
Victory Over Genocide Day – This is a bittersweet celebration that marks the fall of the Khmer Rouge on January 7th, 1979.
Meak Bochea Day – This holiday always falls on the full moon in the third month of the Khmer calendar. On this day, followers of Buddhism are reminded of Buddha and his teachings. They make offerings at pagodas and spend hours praying to purify their minds.
International Women’s Day – A day that is celebrated all over the world, this special day commemorates women’s rights. The Women’s Resource Center in Siem Reap puts on a celebration every year to celebrate the achievements of women in Cambodia.
Khmer New Year – This is seen as the most important public holiday in Cambodia. People celebrate the lunar new year with trips to the temples, traditional games and lots of food. Recently, ‘Angkor Sangkranta’ has been held every year at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians visit this festival that features Khmer dancing and plays, games and praying. In the evenings, Angkor Wat and Bayon temples are lit up in green and purple. It is truly magnificent, and not to be missed if you are in Cambodia during Khmer New Year!
Visak Bochea Day – This Buddhist holiday celebrates the birth of Buddha. This is a great opportunity to visit Angkor Wat, as it is filled to the brim with Buddhist Monks, nuns and followers paying tribute to Buddha.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony – Celebrated at the beginning of the sewing and planting season, this ceremony is used to predict the upcoming weather patterns. Traditionally, a field is ploughed three times then oxen are taken to seven golden trays containing sesame seeds, rice, corn, beans, grass, water and wine. The food and drink they consume is used to determine whether there will be good harvests, floods or droughts.
King Mother’s Birthday – This holiday celebrates the birth of Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, the mother of the current King. Many Cambodians use this day to pray for the health of the former Queen, who lost her husband to illness in 2012.
Constitution Day – This day marks the anniversary of the Cambodian government’s transition to a constitutional monarchy in 1993. It provides hope to Cambodians, particularly those who lived through the horrific Khmer Rouge regime.
Pchum Benh – Although technically lasting for fifteen days, the most popular time of this Buddhist ceremony is the last three days. Pchum Benh is a time for Buddhist Cambodians to honour their ancestors, and is a very family-oriented holiday. It involves many trips to the pagoda to offer food to Monks and to pray for the spirits of the deceased. This festival is known for educating younger people on respecting their elders.
As you can see, Cambodians proudly celebrate many holidays to mark their religion and history. If you are planning a trip there, make sure to check out a list of public holidays for the current year so you can hopefully take part in the celebrations!